Farmers who rely on the Louping ill vaccine to protect stock against
infection by ticks have been warned of a nationwide shortage of the vaccine and the improbability that production will restart any time soon.
The news comes as a serious blow to hill and upland producers when the only alternative to vaccination is to adopt a tick control plan on individual farms.
Dr Mara Rocchi of the Moredun Research Institute (MRI), which
originally developed the vaccine in the 1930s, said the institute had been told that no more doses would be available next year, although the current manufacturer is looking at other ways of getting it produced.
Louping ill is a viral inflammation of the brain. Affected sheep suffer from a lack of appetite and act strangely by leaping (louping) around and throwing their head over their shoulder.
Dr Rocchi advised producers to liaise with vets to develop a tick control plan.
A document produced by the Moredun and other health organisations includes advice on treatments for tick control, biosecurity tips and wildlife and habitat
Moredun chairman Ian Duncan Miller said the loss of the vaccine was a big concern for the industry.
“Farmers have relied on the vaccine, so developing strategies will be a
challenge, particularly in the west where rough grazing and bracken provides a tick environment,” he said.
“If you’re turning sheep out in a Louping ill area, you need the vaccine for the young stock. They need a kick-start, it’s very important.”
Best practice advice can be found at www.moredun.org.uk/research/